Folks in Music City have never come this close to hockey greatness, but after a 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks last night, their Nashville Predators are going to play for the greatest trophy in sports for the first time in franchise history.
Nashville was certainly no hockey hotbed when the city welcomed the team to Tennessee back in 1998, but nearly 20 years later there is puck pandemonium and genuine enthusiasm for the Preds, as their known for short. They won the western conference finals over the Ducks four games to two with their victory last night, thanks in large measure to a hat trick by Colton Sissons, who broke a 3-3 tie in the third period after Anaheim had rallied to tie the game. The Predators entered the 16-team Stanley Cup tournament as a wild card with fewer regular season points than any other team, with no one picking them to get this far. But they swept the Chicago Blackhawks in round one, dispatched the St. Louis Blues, and now after beating the Ducks await either the Ottawa Senators or the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Predators won the series against Anaheim after losing their number one center Ryan Johansen in game four when he suffered a leg injury that required surgery. But they have one of the world's best goaltenders in Pekka Rinne and folks in Montreal know how good their former defenseman P.K. Subban is, so even though they entered as underdogs they will be taken seriously once the finals begin on Monday.
The NBA also has at least one team ready for the finals. The Golden State Warriors have coasted through the playoffs, a perfect 12-0 after sweeping three consecutive series to make a return trip to the finals. Their latest victim was swept away last night with a 129-115 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. Steph Curry scored 36 points last night to finish off a series that lost any sense of drama once San Antonio lost their best play Kawhi Leonard to injury in game one. With the sweep the Warriors become the first team in NBA history to go 12-0 in the first three rounds of the playoffs. They're waiting on either the Cleveland Cavaliers or Boston Celtics, who play game four of the eastern conference finals tonight with Cleveland leading two games to one.
The America East Conference player of the year will be coming back to the University of Vermont men's basketball team for his senior season.
Trae Bell-Haynes had explored the possibility of entering the NBA draft and trying to turn pro for this coming season, but withdrew his name from the draft Monday. Bell-Haynes did not sign with an agent, which allowed him the option of retaining his college eligibility as long as he made that decision before tomorrow's deadline for doing so. The point guard is a native of Toronto and averaged 11 points and nearly 4 assists per game for UVM last season and went past the 1,000-point career mark as well, numbers he can add to when he returns for his senior season as a Catamount.
In Major League Baseball, the NY Yankees kept up their home run happy heroics, led by their lead-off hitter Brett Gardner, who homered for the 9th time in a 21-game span in New York's 4-2 win over the Kansas City Royals last night. Didi Gregorious and Chris Carter also went deep for the Yanks to make a winner of Michael Pineda, who improves to 5-2 with the win, and the Yankees have opened up a one and a half game lead atop the American League east with the win and a Baltimore loss last night.
The Boston Red Sox were idle. They're back at Fenway Park tonight to host the Texas Rangers, with Rick Porcello getting the start for Boston. The NY Mets were also off. They host the San Diego Padres. The Toronto Blue Jays take on the Brewers in Milwaukee tonight. They Jays also had the day off yesterday.